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Paul Lockyer, Gary Ticehurst and John Bean

Valued journalists provide an important service that is often underestimated, for too often the foot in the door populist gossip monger has masqueraded as the face of the media.

In contrast, there are the responsible reporters who keep us informed on matters of importance, rather than deal in unnecessary hype to attract the attention of the gullible public.

Dedicated documenters requires more than just wordsmiths, but also a sense of occasion. Being there on the spot to accurately witness first hand events as they unfold. This often involves risks, traveling to far away places to get a unique glimpse of something we can never otherwise share sitting in our easy chairs.

Too often we overlook the many efforts made on our behalf bringing the stories and imagery to our lounge rooms. It then takes a team to capture this to the fullest and at its best.

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Three of the ABC’s finest

Sadly, a wonderful team consisting of three of the finest in their field were lost to us when ABC reporter Paul Lockyer, cameraman John Bean and pilot Gary Ticehurst were killed in a helicopter crash on Thursday August 18th, 2011, in a remote area 140km north east of William Creek and Marree on the eastern side of Lake Eyre in South Australia, whilst engaged in a project of love. Doing what they do best, conveying life in our wilderness, showing an otherwise arid area which has now blossomed in the vast Lake Eyre Basin, located in the deserts of central Australia. For heavy rain this and last year filled the southern end of the lake, and water continued to inflow from local creeks to transform an otherwise dry salt pan. They were revisiting the area to give us an update on the metamorphosis taking place as nature evolved and wildlife prospered in what had been a harsh environment.

This was one of many stories these gentlemen have engaged in, their efforts resulted in some wonderful coverage of topics, revealing great scope from important human interest events, to sporting spectaculars, to natural disasters, to the consequences of war. All usually involving some element of risk capturing the story.

Tribute to Esteemed ABC Team Killed in Helicopter Crash

WA TV History
Colleagues and friends pay tribute to three of the ABC’s most experienced and respected newsmen – journalist Paul Lockyer, cameraman John Bean and pilot Gary Ticehurst – who have been killed in a helicopter crash.

In an award-winning career spanning more than 40 years, ABC journalist Paul Lockyer has been described as a true gentleman and a great storyteller. Born in Corrigin, 250km east of Perth, and educated at Aquinas College, he started at the ABC’s Perth office in 1969 before moving to Sydney and then to Canberra in 1976, where he covered the fallout from the dismissal of the Whitlam government.

Paul Lockyer began his career in the Perth ABC Newsroom

From 1979, he spent the next nine years as a foreign correspondent in Jakarta, Bangkok and Washington and as the ABC’s Asia Correspondent based in Singapore.

He became one of the first journalists to report on the full extent of the Khmer Rouge atrocities of 1975 to 1979 in Cambodia and the flight of boat people from Vietnam. He spent much time in the early 1980s covering the troubles in Central America. His career took him to Washington, and then back to Australia in 1988, this time with the Nine Network, where amongst other things in 1994 he reported on a drought in eastern Australia for A Current Affair and was credited for inspiring the Farmhand Appeal, then by 1999 he was back at the ABC.

Paul Lockyer has done everything from working as a foreign and political correspondent to covering the Sydney Olympic Games, which earned him a Logie award as the Most Outstanding TV News Reporter in 2000. His rural reporting earned him a Centenary Medal in 2003 and he was twice awarded the NSW Farmers Mackellar Media prize for coverage of rural issues. He later led the ABC TV News coverage of the Athens Olympics in 2004 and reported on the Beijing Olympics in 2008, for The 7.30 Report. In between, he presented the Western Australian 7pm ABC TV news in 2005, before returning to Sydney to fulfil a number of presentation and reporting roles for ABC TV News and Current Affairs, including the dramatic 2006 rescue of two miners from Tasmania’s Beaconsfield gold mine.

Paul Lockyer presented the WA edition of the nightly ABC TV News in 2005

Paul Lockyer’s rural origins and zeal made him a great bush reporter, for it was not only his excellent journalistic skills, but most importantly his empathy and manner that put country people at ease and inspired their trust. Covering the extremes nature would throw at the rural community from heart breaking drought to the devastating Queensland floods.

In 2011 he and his crew were the first media to fly into the town of Grantham, by helicopter, the morning after it had been all but destroyed by the massive floods that swept down the Lockyer Valley. They documented harrowing stories of loss and amazing stories of bravery and survival.

Former NSW premier John Fahey said Lockyer always showed respect.

“I always felt there was a friendly professional on the other side of the camera who was interested in getting the story, rather than interested in creating some news by creating conflict.”

Lockyer, who was 61, is survived by his wife Maria and two sons.

All three men were passionate about their work, finding great stories from all over Australia to bring to the public.

John Bean, 48, who was based in Queensland, worked for the ABC as a cameraman for more than 22 years on programs including the 7.30 Report, News 24, Landline, Australian Story, Catalyst, The New Inventors, Gardening Australia, Art Nation and for the Australia Network. Queensland Premier Anna Bligh pointed out that there was barely a place in Queensland where he has not been and on every story, in every place and at every time he was always caring for the people, wanting to portray their account to the absolute best of his abilities. We will now miss his photography highlighting the outback springing back to life as floodwaters continue to flow into Lake Eyre for the second year running, as the cinematographer for the documentaries ‘Return To Lake Eyre’ and ‘After The Deluge’.

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John Bean

During the past two years, John Bean spent several stints overseas, in particular in the Pacific. He also worked in the ABC News Washington bureau during 2009. John also mentored young film students at Griffith University in Queensland.

John’s widow is Pip Courtney, a reporter for the ABC’s Landline program, who described John as,

“the most wonderful husband a girl could wish for”.

John was the cameraman on her first shoot when she moved from Tasmania to Canberra in 1993. On returning from the shoot she told one of her friends that,

“I think I’ve just met the nicest man in the whole world.”

The helicopter that crashed was being flown by Gary Ticehurst, the founder and principal of Film Helicopters Australia, who has been contracted to fly ABC staff since 1980. He was the ABC’s lead helicopter pilot and one of the most experienced media pilots in Australia. He commenced flying in the Australian Army in 1973 and had logged more than 16,000 hours of flying time as a chopper pilot. He left the army to join the NSW Police Air Wing in March 1979 as one of the wing’s original helicopter pilots, before leaving to pursue his interest in film and television operations at the company he founded in late 1980, Film Helicopters Australia.

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Gary Ticehurst

He was highly experienced in low level film and television helicopter operations, with an impressive history of aerial services provided to feature films, such as The Matrix, Mission Impossible II, Superman Returns and Anna and the King, television productions such as The Amazing Race, Who Dares Wins and many more, TV commercials and numerous sporting events.

This Sydney helicopter pilot was one of the heroes of the tragic 1998 Sydney to Hobart yacht race, where he played a major role in helping locate and rescue sailors missing at sea. A total of 55 crew were rescued in the wake of the storm which also claimed the lives of six sailors in the worst weather in the history of the world famous race.


Gary Ticehurst potentially helped save the lives of 20 plus sailors by hovering over their stricken vessels throughout the day in horrendous conditions, answering their Mayday calls and passing crucial information on to search and rescue officials.

Ticehurst had covered more than 29 Sydney to Hobarts from the air, making him one of the most experienced pilots in world sailing. Every year he brought stunning pictures to the ABC’s TV audience and enabled radio reporters to close in on the action.


Cinematographer Andy Taylor ACS describes how valuable his flying skills were to a shoot,

“With little more than a nod and a wink to the cameraman, he would manoeuvre into position, then literally ‘fly the shot’ like some kind of magical camera platform. Beautiful creative shots that usually developed into breathtaking and picturesque reveals, sometimes tracking around the subject at very low levels. He would occasionally cue the cameraman to slowly zoom as he slowed the chopper to a hover, but generally all we needed to do was hold the camera as steady as possible, watch the horizon and hit the record button.”

Fellow chopper pilot Dick Smith knew Ticehurst well and said the crash had shocked the tightly knit helicopter community.

“He was a lovely bloke; we’re going to miss him greatly.”

Gary Ticehurst, 60, is survived by his wife Therese.

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